Secure SDLC Best Practices

Secure SDLC Best Practices

Categories: DevOps

The Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) describes the phases of software development, including:

  • Requirements Gathering and Analysis
  • Design
  • Implementation
  • Testing
  • Deployment
  • Maintenance

While these describe the process of developing functional code, they don’t always result in secure code. Security is often relegated to the testing phase—shortly before deployment—if it is included at all. As a result, over 18,000 new vulnerabilities are discovered in production software each year, leaving users vulnerable and forcing vendors to scramble to develop and deploy patches.

The Secure SDLC (SSDLC) is designed to integrate security into all stages of the software development process. This includes creating security-focused requirements, performing a security review of proposed designs, developing security-focused test cases, and undergoing security and vulnerability assessments as part of the testing stage.

4 Best Practices for Securing the SDLC

Modern development practices have streamlined and automated the process of writing and deploying functional code. However, security is commonly left behind in the race to get new releases out the door as quickly as possible. 

By applying many of the same technologies and philosophies to creating secure code as they do to creating functional code, developers can secure the SDLC and reduce the number and impact of the vulnerabilities that reach production. Here are four best practices to follow to truly secure the SDLC. 

1. Shift security left

Shifting security left focuses on moving security earlier in the SDLC. Often, security is tacked on as part of testing, the last phase before deployment. This leaves little time to address any security risks identified during a code review or penetration test, meaning that big problems either push back release dates or are fixed in production.

By integrating security into earlier stages of the SDLC, a development team can dramatically decrease the cost of security and security errors. It’s far cheaper and easier to fix a security issue at the design or implementation stages when no code has been built on top of it than it is to cobble together an effective fix during patching.

2. Make security painless

Modern development processes are all about automation and removing friction from the development process. Developers are frequently evaluated based upon how quickly they can write and release code, so the focus is on automating as much of the process as possible.

Developers commonly avoid security because it is seen as inconvenient and an impediment to the “real work” of getting code written and out the door. Securing the SDLC requires making security painless by integrating application security testing, code reviews, and other security functionality into automated pipelines so that it runs seamlessly and without slowing down the development cycle. 

3. Make vulnerabilities a deal breaker

Continuous integration and testing are a core part of the DevOps mindset. Developers routinely write test cases that validate that code works properly before it is accepted into the code repository. Commits containing code that do not pass these functionality and integration tests are automatically rejected, enabling developers to be confident that all code in the repository is functionally correct. However, the scope of this automated testing is limited by the test cases written by the developers, and security is oftentimes left out.

Integrating security test cases and vulnerability scanning into a development team’s automated pipeline is an essential step in securing the SDLC. By automatically identifying vulnerabilities and blocking insecure code from being committed to the repository, an organization can ensure that vulnerabilities are fixed immediately when they have the lowest cost of remediation and the smallest impact to the organization.

4. Control access to code repositories

Supply chain attacks became a major threat in 2021, and code repositories are a common target. The momentous SolarWinds hack involved cyber threat actors accessing the company’s development environment and inserting malicious functionality into update code for the company’s Orion product. Once SolarWinds signed and pushed the update to customers, the attacker had backdoor access to the environments of any organization that installed the update.

Building security into the development process is important for code security, but it provides little benefit if cybercriminals can access the development environment and insert their own malicious code. Controlling access to code repositories is vital to application security. Companies should only allow verified corporate identities to submit code to repositories, making it more difficult for an attacker to impersonate a developer and build in a backdoor.

Secure your code with Beyond Identity Secure DevOps

Having tens of thousands of new vulnerabilities being created and discovered each year is not sustainable. Securing the SDLC is essential to minimizing the number of vulnerabilities that reach production and eliminating the data breaches, ransomware infections, and other security incidents that they cause.

However, security can be a roadblock to development if not implemented correctly, making it likely that developers will bypass or undermine any cumbersome security practices. Development teams need security tools that integrate with their existing workflows and enable security automation. Learn more about seamlessly integrating authentication and security into every code commit with Beyond Identity’s Secure DevOps.